Cambridge ESV Wide Margin Reference: Black Goatskin, Brown Cabra Bonded Leather, and Hardback

More of the same. In most cases, a judgment phrased like that would be negative. Ho hum. Nothing new. Same old, same old. But when the object in question is a Cambridge wide margin, "more of the same" is high praise. In fact, anything else would be a disappointment. I've written about the Wide Margin Reference twice before: first, when it appeared in its NASB incarnation, and again when the NKJV hit the shelves. The big difference between the two was the addition of a line of stitching along the cover's edge, apparently to prevent de-lamination. Now the Wide Margin Reference is available in the English Standard Version, with three binding options to choose from — black goatskin, brown Cabra bonded leather, and a gray hardback.

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Above: The ESV Wide Margin Reference comes in three attractive bindings – Brown Cabra bonded leather (top), a gray hardcover (middle), and black goatskin (bottom).

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If you want a black letter text, choose either the hardcover or the black goatskin edition with black ribbons. For red letter aficionados, there's a black goatskin edition with red ribbons and the brown Cabra bonded leather. The text setting inside is the same as the one in the ESV Pitt Minion, only bigger, which means your favorite passages are not only on the same page when you switch from one volume to the other, but in exactly the same place on the page.

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Above: The fact that the text settings are identical makes switching between the smaller Pitt Minion (below) and the Wide Margin Reference a breeze.

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In addition to the enlarged setting, the Wide Margin Reference differs from the Pitt Minion in the obvious way: it has wide margins. Like its predecessors, the ESV edition features a nice, wide margin on the outside and bottom, and narrower margins up top and near the gutter. Ideally, a two-column text setting should have wide margins on either side — a good argument for a single column wide margin, if you ask me — but here there is at least enough room inside for tiny notes. The fact that all three of these volumes opens flat really helps, since it maximizes the usable space.

MAKING NOTES
I've been using mine for several months now, and I'm happy to report that the paper seems quite good. Thanks to recommendations from readers, I now use Pigma Micron pens to mark in my Bible instead of my old ballpoint (though I transgress now and then). Here's an example of how the Pigma Micron performs on the page:

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I chose an example where I've annotated the inside margin, so you can see how cramped it is. By writing in letters not much larger than the printed text, I was able to squeeze two words onto each line. Not much, I admit, but it's better than nothing. When I flip the page, here's what the ink looks like on the other side:
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The underlining is barely visible, though you can make it out at the section break, while my writing is evident but faint. The paper, though thin, seems satisfyingly opaque in comparison with other Bibles I've used, so I have no complaints on that score.

While I liked this text setting in the Pitt Minion, I think it really comes into its own in the enlarged wide margin edition. The text size increases from 6.75/7 points to approximately 8/8 points — not large print, of course, but certainly more comfortable to read. Since an obvious application of the Wide Margin Reference is for teaching, that's a good thing. Reading aloud from the Wide Margin Reference is a bit easier than the Pitt Minion. A 1-point increase in type size really does make a difference.

WHAT A FEELING
The same languid liquidity that made the NASB and NKJV Wide Margin References such a delight to handle is fully in evidence here. While I found the ESV Pitt Minions in goatskin stiffer than earlier editions, the wide margins bound in goatskin stay on form. When you hold one in your hand, it feels like its melting. You're almost surprised it doesn't splash right to the floor. Maybe that sounds like a decadent luxury, but I can assure you it's imminently practical. With covers this flexible, you can fold them over without any trouble, converting a large and somewhat unwieldy format into a handier affair. I love having my notes handy while teaching, but wrestling with a wide-open book about three quarters the length of my arm isn't very practical, especially when I only have one free hand. Folding the cover back, I'm left with a manageable form factor.

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Above: More than an indulgence, the goatskin cover's remarkable liquidity means you can fold the cover back and convert this large format Bible into a handier proposition.

Of course, you won't experience the thrilling limpness with the Cabra bonded leather cover or (it goes without saying) the hardback. All three open flat, though — which is priority one as far as I'm concerned — and for those of you who want more structure holding up your pages, the bonded leather and hardback editions offer that. 

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Above: Like the others, the hardcover edition features a sewn binding and opens flat.

For most applications, I'd recommend … the black goatskin. A shocker, I know. I like the other options, but for sheer joy of use, there's really no comparison. This is the edition I've been waiting for since 2001, the year the ESV was released, and now that it's finally here, I'm overjoyed. Every translation should have a quality wide margin, because every student of the Bible should have a quality wide margin. It's as simple as that. A good wide margin is a lifetime companion, a study Bible you create yourself through dogged commitment. And if you're going to spend so much time together, it might as well be nice, right?

And the goatskin version is nothing if not nice.

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Above: Grainy photos are bad. Grainy leather is good.
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Above: The art-gilt page edges add some class, and the miniature line of stitching around the cover adds some strength.
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Above: Inside the cover, some shiny, leather-like substance. I agree with the folks who wish it were all leather, but I have to say, as it is, I'm perfectly satisfied.
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Above: The goatskin editions feature two ribbons, while the hardback and the bonded leather only come with one.
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Above: The spine is gentle curved outward.
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Above: Overall, a beautiful package.

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Above: All three editions feature a section of double-column notepaper in back, a great place to record information you'll refer to often. I use mine for quotes, creeds, excerpts from confessions, and the occasional outline.

SCALE
Cambridge seems to be sticking to its two format strategy, offering a variety of translations first in the Pitt Minion and then the Wide Margin Reference. It makes a lot of sense. They're both great stand-alone formats, and they work well together, too. At the close of my piece on the Allan's ESV1 Classic Reference, I offered some thoughts on which ESV is best, and how they compare in terms of size. My thoughts haven't changed since then. If you're after top drawer materials and execution, the Allan's ESV is still tops (although the paper in the Cambridge editions is probably better). If a compact edition is your thing, go with the Pitt Minion, and for all your wide margin needs, there's the Wide Margin Reference. In terms of size, there's a definite progression, as you can see:
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Above: The Pitt Minion (top) is thin and small, but from the front the Allan's ESV1 (middle) and the Wide Margin Reference (bottom) look pretty similar.
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Above: Things change in the aerial view. As you can see, the Wide Margin Reference is considerably wider than the Allan's ESV1, and the text size is slightly smaller.
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Above: One ribbon, three ribbons, two ribbons. Compared to the thick Allan's ribbons, the Cambridge ones are on the thin side.

As I said, my thoughts haven't changed, but I do want to add a wrinkle. You really should have a wide margin Bible. Seriously. In my mind, it's non-negotiable, and it has nothing to do with binding quality or design know-how. A wide margin edition offers a way for you to engage visibly with the text. You encounter a difficult passage, you do some thinking, some research, and once you've processed your thoughts you record the conclusions in the margin, forever nearby for future reference. Over time, you end up with a marginal "key," a road map of interpretation that can be surprisingly useful as your knowledge grows and you make more and more connections between one passage and another. 

Maybe I'm romanticizing the process a little, but I don't think so. And you could obviously achieve the same effect by other means. But in my own experience, the wide margin edition facilitates a higher level of engagement, useful not just for teachers but for anyone seeking greater understanding. There are thousands of "helps" out there designed to assist the student, but none is more beneficial in the long run than a swatch of blank space at the margins.

CHOOSING THE HARDCOVER
In the past, I've mentioned my respect for hardcover Bibles. There's no law that says a "good" Bible has to be wrapped in leather. If I have to choose between synthetics and a good, honest hardcover, I think I'll go with the latter. Unfortunately not all hardcovers are good and honest. There are plenty of cheapies out there, rigid covers pinching together chunks of glued, low grade paper. They don't open flat, they don't feel good in the hand. The Wide Margin Reference hardcover has nothing in common with them.

If you agree with my rationale for wide margin Bibles, but you don't plan on using a wide margin as your "primary" carry edition, or you don't have the money to spend on a goatskin edition, the hardcover makes perfect sense. And don't think of it as a step down in quality. It's just a lateral move. 

The hardcover is appealing for another reason. I've advised several people already who were looking for an edition of the ESV to have rebound that the Wide Margin Reference hardcover might be the ideal starting point. The text setting is excellent, and your rebinder can trim the margins accordingly, giving you a nice-sized and unique text block to work from. The binding is sewn, it opens flat, and the paper is very nice. 

AND THEN THERE'S THE BROWN

When Cambridge released the Pitt Minion, one of the options featured a two-toned synthetic cover that had the distinction of being the most flexible of the lot. Instead of that, the low end of the Wide Margin Reference is the hardcover. Sitting in the middle, where the French Morocco Pitt Minion resides, is the Cabra bonded leather wide margin. It opens flat like the others, but its cover is not nearly as limp as the goatskin or as rigid as the hardcover. I have a soft spot for Cabra bonded leather — or should I call it a semi-rigid spot? — and I also like the color brown.

In this case, though, I'm scratching my head a little. I mean, it's nice. But it costs the same as a lot of calfskin editions out there. Even if you get it for under $100 from one of the online discounters, that's not exactly cheap. If you want leather, I can't see not splashing out the extra money for goatskin. If you don't want goatskin, the hardcover is more than nice enough. 

So I find myself wondering whether a brown bonded leather edition at this price point is going to have much appeal. (You tell me.)

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Above: A comparison of brown covers, including Cambridge's goatskin Book of Common Prayer (top), the Allan's ESV1 BR in chocolate brown highland goatskin, the Allan's NIVC in chocolate brown highland goatskin, and the Wide Margin Reference in brown Cabra bonded leather.

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Above: More brown. Added to the stack (from top) are the brown goatskin KJV Pitt Minion and the ESV PItt Minion.

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Above: The ESV logo is featured on the covers of the bonded leather and hardcover editions, but not on the goatskin.
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Above: The bonded leather edition opens flat and comes with gilded edges and one ribbon.
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Above: No leather-like stuff inside the bonded leather edition, just black paper.

The brown Cabra bonded leather edition isn't a luxury option, and it isn't a budget option, either. It is quality, though. In French Morocco, it might make sense, but I'm just not sure about bonded at this level. Doubts aside, it's an attractive binding. If you don't like floppy covers, the bonded leather is rigid enough to support the weight of the pages without feeling board stiff. In fact, it's only slightly stiffer than the goatskin covers on the ESV Pitt Minion. So perhaps the brown-loving, floppy-hating brigade will take to this option with a passion. 

CONSISTENCY, FOOLISH AND OTHERWISE
"A foolish consistency," quipped Emerson, "is the hobgoblin of little minds." There's nothing foolish about the consistency we're seeing from Cambridge these days. The Wide Margin Reference in goatskin is a jaw-dropper, and they keep making more of them. It's a winning strategy. The Pitt Minion's the same. Together, they're a one-two punch, a dynamic duo that covers most if not all of the bases. One is great. One of each, and you're ready for most anything. More of the same, when this is what you're getting, is nothing to be upset about. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that we'll get more … and more … and more.

And I'm relieved after all these years finally to have a proper wide margin to commit my notes to. Which means the task of transferring all the old notes can't be put off much longer! If, like me, you've been holding your breath in anticipation of this day, you can finally let it out and get busy writing. Start filling those margins!

72 Comments on “Cambridge ESV Wide Margin Reference: Black Goatskin, Brown Cabra Bonded Leather, and Hardback

  1. Ah…the review and pictures we have waited for. Thanks Mark. I have the black letter goatskin and absolutely love it. I am ready to start moving some notes from other Bibles to it and teaching class with it. I have just one complaint. The ribbons in the goatskin black letter seem to be of lesser quality than say the goatskin red-letter with red ribbons. My ribbons have already started fraying and even “delaminating” on the sides. I have contacted the folks at Cambridge and they offered to replace it. I decided, after an email exchange with Al Mechling, to have three new ribbons put into the Bible. According to Al this will be a simple procedure. This way I get an extra ribbon, higher quality material (in my view), and a different color. And I like your brown stack! Thanks again. With this Bible, what other Bible need there be? :)

  2. Thanks for the review, but horror of horrors – the man takes a $140-60 bible and underlines passages without the use of a RULER!

  3. Great review Mark. I just purchased the Cambridge ESV Wide Margin in black Goatskin a few weeks ago and am thrilled. George Grant uses Cambridge bibles which is where I got the recommendation originally. It’s my first wide-margin Bible (I have 8 others) and has brought a whole new life to my Scripture study. I use a 6″ metal ruler and Faber-Castell “PITT artist pens” for notes. They are archival-quality, acid-free ink, dry instantly, and don’t bleed through the page. I have Pigma Micron pens as well but find the Faber-Castells to be easier to write with. I use the “Superfine” point but the “Fine” point also works well.

  4. This looks like it could be ‘the one’. Please tell me it’s in anglicised text format..?

  5. Indeed, the review we’ve been waiting for. I own two other cambridge wide-margin editions (NASB & KJV) and also the Pitt Minion companion in NASB. I absolutely agree with Mark that for serious students of the Word the wide-margin is the way to go. I don’t know what I would do without my Cambridge Wide-Margin and my handy Pitt-Minion edition. I use my Pitt Minion for traveling, and I must say, there’s something beautiful about pulling a Bible of this quality out on an airplane. It makes me feel like I’m at home.
    I had to laugh at the person above who commented about using a ruler. In the past, I did not use a ruler, but someone on another blog recommended it for Bible underlining and I now use one. It does make a big difference. Using a ruler makes a nice clean underline and makes the underscoring more effective by providing a cleaner and bolder underscore. The straight, clean line results in the verse standing out the way it should. I use a slightly thicker 0.35mm (03)Pigma Micron for my underscoring and use the 0.20mm (005)for my notes and this combination seems to work very well.
    I do, however, find myself in a frustrating quandary. I just purchased the NASB Cambridge Wide-margin and Pitt Minion versions for Christmas. After reading this blog over the past year and doing my own research, however, I think I’m being converted to the ESV. I really don’t want to shell out the additonal funds to buy new Bibles though. I wasn’t planning on switching, but after doing some careful verse by verse comparisons of the two versions, I’m becoming more and more convinced that a change might be in order.
    At first I wasn’t sure what I thought about the cover being sewn around the exterior edges, but the more I think about it, I think this is probably a good idea. I think this could be an improvement because I’ve had to re-glue the interior flaps on my last two wide-margin Bibles in order to prevent the leather from coming undone.
    I did immediately notice the rounded spine in the pictures. This looks like it could be a nice aesthetic feature. It’s interesting how Cambridge seems to make some minor distinctions in each of their wide-margin versions.
    Thank you for yet another outstanding review Mark.

  6. Great review as always, thanks very much.
    I was assuming that the shiny stuff on the inside of the cover of mine was just the inside of the leather cover polished. Am I wrong? If it is another substance it would make the goatskin very thin I think, and it doesn’t feel like two substances glued together. Anyone know what it is?

  7. Martin,
    I’m pretty sure the inside cover you’re referring to is some type of synthetic material. I’m nearly positive that just the cover is made from goatskin. I just read about this in another one of Mark’s reviews.

  8. Great article. Nice pictures! Some of those Bible stacks are making me covet! :)
    It’s nice to know about ESV Bible options. However, I’m sticking with my R.L. Allan ESV1 black as it has everything I ever wanted in a Bible and more! Aaaahhhh, nothing like Allan’s “Highland goatskin”.

  9. My ESV black goatskin just came today. I was greatly disappointed that not every book begins on a new page. To me that is not to be expected from a premium priced and quality Bible.

  10. Randall Cue,
    Which ESV black goatskin did you get? Was it the Cambridge ESV Wide Margin (the one in this article)? Or was it a R.L. Allan ESV1 Higland goatskin? If it was the Allan then could you please list at least one book that does not start on a new page?

  11. @ AJ Bergren,
    Randall has to be talking about the Cambridge ESV. For example: The book of Job starts on the the same page as the end of Esther (page 404). Also, Ecclesiastes starts on the same page that Proverbs ends (page 548).This continues on throughout the edition based upon the amount of space remaining at the end of a book. This is true for the Wide Margin as well as the Pitt Minion since the Pitt is the “mini me” of the Wide Margin edition. This is also true of the NASB verion. I personally do not have a problem with it. I think they did it to save on bulk. As long as I can find the book, I’m okay. It would have been nice, however, to have the extra room for notes. For example, at the end of Ecclesiastes, there is really not that much room at the bottom of the page, yet they started the Song of Solomon. I’m still thinking bulk here, possibly for the Pitt. How much thicker would it have been if they had not have done this? I don’t think it was a poor decision for a premium priced Bible. It was just the decision they made based upon the restraints and goals they chose and has more to do with personal taste whether one likes it or not. I don’t think it “cheapens” this edition. I have more of a personal problem with the Alan’s ESV saying it was printed and bound in China even though functionally I love my Allan’s! It still beats the pants off the construction of most anything I can purchase in a typical American Christian bookstore.

  12. Hey Scott,
    I had read that, but it’s just that weird personal quirk. There is just something “Wal-Mart-ish” about having “printed and bound in China” written in it even though functionally it works great. Just my personal quirk.
    Regards,
    Kyle

  13. Just for those that are puzzled about “printed and bound in China” deal. The paper block for the current R.L. Allan ESV1 series (at least the 3rd print) says it’s printed and bound in China but that’s not quite true. The truth is the paper block (the Scriptures/Bible) was printed in China but it was not bound there. The paper block is sent from China to the United Kingdom then is hand bound to the luxurious natural grain Highland goatskin cover. I believe Allan’s also has added the three ribbons, the blue paper first/last pages and probably the white note pages too.

  14. Hey Kyle,
    OK. Just wanted to make sure you didn’t think that the Allan was printed AND bound in China as opposed to just printed.
    Cheers,
    Scott

  15. If you look at many vintage bibles, most of them have one book of the bible starting on the same page as the ending of another. I have several bibles that do this including an Allan’s Brevier Clarendon Blackface and a 1923 Dickson Indexed Analytical Bible. Don’t know or care why this is done, but it seems that bibles with book intros don’t use this practice. I could be wrong.

  16. Thanks for the nice review Mark. I have just a couple questions. Does the text appear to be a good size for study – not too small and not too close for the line spacing? Also, how thick is this edition? From the pics it looks as if it’s thinner than the Allan’s ESV, which would be nice since it is larger in width.

  17. I also don’t have a problem with the books starting on the same page as the previous book. My Cambridge NASB and KJV wide-margin Bibles are both like this as well and I didn’t even notice it until reading the aforementioned complaint. Cambridge still produces one of the finest Bibles on the market.

  18. I just got my copy and I am very happy with it. There are two things about it though that stop it from being perfect. First, the ribbons are the worst I’ve ever seen in a premium bible. Not only are they cheaper looking than the ribbons in an Allen’s bible but the thread that runs down the edge of the ribbon is separated from the body of the ribbon. Second, where the leather exterior of the cover is turned around the vinyl interior of the cover isn’t finished as neatly in the corners as the Pitt Minions.
    Don’t get me wrong though, this is still a very beautiful, well built bible and I’m glad I bought it. I don’t write this to nit pick but to point out to Cambridge, who I’m sure read this blog, that there is still room for improvement.

  19. Hi Steve,
    I’m in total agreement with you. The ribbons are BAD. Also, the leather trim work isn’t very neat, especially the corners. This was the case on the NASB as well. But, this Bible does give you the security of stitching around the edge. My concern is that with much use that trim work is gonna come loose up to the stitching. I still like this edition, but it does need some improvement. It seems they tried to work the leather around this “vinyl” form and it just doesn’t work well. It makes for a flexible cover though. My guess is that it is a cost issue.

  20. I’ve already got the Pitt Minion ESV, which I thoroughly enjoy, but I went ahead and ordered the ESV wide margin reference edition today (black goatskin, black letter). This is the full-size Bible I’ve been waiting for, and thanks to Amazon Prime, it should be here Friday so that I can start using it right away!
    Thanks for the review and for the site. Fantastic job.
    Matt

  21. Mark,
    Thanks for another excellent review.
    I was wondering if you had thought about doing some side by side comparisons of the various wide margin bibles? I’m looking at getting the hard cover to write notes in and am wondering how it compares in font size and margin space to the Journaling Bible?
    It would also be interesting to see a shot of an open Pitt Minon and an open wide margin to see the difference in font size and footprint.
    Thanks,
    Sam

  22. A couple of you have mentioned ordering your own copy so I’m just curious what your thoughts are.
    Thanks,
    Steve

  23. Sam I do not have pictures but I measured the wide margin NAS Cambridge goat skin Bible (same as the ESV) to the leather journaling Bible. The journaling’s margin is 2 1/4 wide on each side with lines for writing. Print size is 7pt I think. The wide margin is 1 1/2 in. on the sides, 1 in at bottom , 3/4 on to inner margin and top margin. The hard bound I think is the same size. Print size is at least 8pt or more? I am not sure but teh newer journaling bible may have a little larger print size. Also Evangelical Bibles.com has teh older journaling Bibles at 1/2 price $33.00 I think.

  24. Today I received my new Cambridge ESV wide-margin in goatskin. The Bible is gorgeous! It’s actually nicer than I thought it would be. I already own the NASB and KJV wide-margins from Cambridge. Based upon pictures I’ve seen of the ESV in goatskin, I was expecting the leather to be smoother and not as grainy as my other goatskin Bibles. This definitely wasn’t the case. In fact, the ESV was extremely supple and had some of the most unique markings I’ve seen in a goatskin Bible yet.
    I also wasn’t sure if I would like the sewn edges on the cover, but I have to say, it’s actually a nice feature. The thread is barely noticable and adds a nice aesthetic touch to the cover. I think the sewn cover will also make the cover more durable over the long run.
    I haven’t measured the margins in my various wide-margins, but at first glance, the inside margin appears to be a bit wider in the ESV compared to the NASB.
    I ordered the red letter edition which comes with two red ribbons. I haven’t measured these either, but they appear to be slightly wider than the black ribbons on my NASB. They also appear to be of slightly better quality. Of course I applied Fray-Check to them right away.
    Another difference is that the lined pages for notes located in the back of the Bible are divided into two columns per page in contrast to the single column pages in my other Bibles.

  25. Ok guys, I’ve got a question. I’m debating between purchasing the goatskin version or purchasing the hardcover and sending it to Leonards for the “Geneva” treatment. Since I am unfamiliar with the leather of Leonard’s, would it be of lesser, equal, or greater quality compared to the standard Cambridge goatskin?

  26. I recently received my Cambridge wide-margin ESV in goatskin leather (which is extremely liquid and flexible). The text is sharp, clean and very attractive to the eye–especially when it lays flat. It’s a little unwieldy when held in the hand. But there are so many advantages in having a Bible with wide-margin in which one can insert the fruits of one’s study. I use Helix 0.1 mm fine line markers (pigment ink, water based, and water resistant). I like them better than the Pigma Pro (which, to me, have more bleed-through). To me, the wide-margins are a bit more compact than my Cambridge wide-margin KJV–and thus one has to write more small. Also, the Cambridge wide-margin KJV has heavier paper and a bolder font. I was hoping that my wide-margin ESV had the same weight of paper as my Cambridge–but it doesn’t. One obvious shortcoming is the flimsy red ribbons used in the wide-margin ESV. They quickly began to fray on the ends. I have learned that if one folds the ribbons so that they are not laying loose outside of the Bible, that does the trick in stopping the fraying. Also, one negative: Somehow, on my first use of this Bible, I had a 1/2 inch paper tear–I’m still not sure how that happened in that I treat my Bible with much TLC and try to gracefully turn the pages. A small strip of transparent scotch tape on each side of the tear seemed to do the trick in halting the tear from spreading. But I was disappointed by the fact that the paper seems somewhat fragile (which simply means that when turning to other passage one has to do so very tenderly). I agree that this wide-margin ESV is the best one currently available. No doubt about that! But there ‘IS’ room for improvement. In light of the fragility of the paper, I’m somewhat hesitant to begin the laborious process of transferring ALL of my notes from my other wide-margin Bibles (or at least I am being a lot more discriminatory in the notes I am transferring). Now don’t take me wrong–This is a beautiful Bible and I’m glad I purchased it. But, again, there is room for improvement. Only time and usage will tell if it holds up as well as my wide-margin Cambridge KJV. I hope in future editions Cambridge will make the following changes:
    1. Use a tad-heavier weight of paper. What is found in this present edition is just a little too light and fragile.
    2. Somehow make the wide-margins a little bit wider.
    3. Improve and add 2 more ribbons (like the ones that Allan’s provides in their highland goatskin ESV-1)–which is a totally awesome Bible!
    I have come to really love the ESV. IMHO is has a better ‘literary-style’ than the NASB; and as a translation is considerably more trustworthy than the NIV. [But then again, I prefer a more “essentially literal” translational philosophy as compared to “dynamic equivalence”). But compared to the shabby ESV’s produced by Crossway Publishing–well, Cambridge is indeed the only way to go.

  27. Does anyone know what the font size is on this Bible?
    Cambridge offers pdf samples of the NASB but not the ESV. If the fint is the same as the NASB then it looks pretty small to me.

  28. If I were to make a guesstimate on the font size, I would say the ESV wide-margin is an 8-point font. Thus it IS a bit on the small size, but it is also sharp and clear (although I wish it was a bit bolder). Mine is the red-letter edition. It’s a nice, clear red that, to my eyes, is clearer and sharper than most red-letter Bibles. Interestingly, the center margin references are considerably larger and clearer than most Bibles that have references. Conclusion: Even though the font is a bit small, the lay-out is nice, clear and clean. I have to wear glasses to read anything–but this Bible does not strain my eyes. It IS the best ESV Wide-Margin currently on the market. Hope this helps.

  29. Pastor,
    That helps a bit thank you. So far the font size is the only thing I don’t like about this edition.
    I just wish there was a bookstore in my area that carried one that I could look at.

  30. I have been using this Bible as my primary reading and study Bible for the past month or so now. Overall, I am very happy with it. I have the goatskin version. The font is a little small for me, but it’s readable overall. If the font were a bit bigger (and single column — but I’m dreaming!), it would be perfect.
    A question for others who have this Bible… there is a section in the back called “Index to Notes” and there are colums (2 to a page) with the letters of the Alphabet… A, B, etc. With a lot of blank space to write underneath. I can’t for the life of me figure out what I’m supposed to use this section for. Anyone know? Thanks!

  31. Lynn — you raise an interesting point. I’d be interested to see the responses of others on this issue. I have several hardbacks and have not yet used this section of the bible. I tend to use only the margins along the actual verse I’m hignlighting or placing notes along side. How do others of you use this section? What’s the typical information you place in it? Inquiring minds wish to know….

  32. I’m assuming the “Index to Notes” is for notes written on the lined pages that follow. You write the general subject of the note and which page it’s on.

  33. Whether right or wrong, I have used my “Index to Notes” as a way to index scriptures along with my notes by subject. Example: Under “T” I have, “Teaching: Ezra’s Pattern: Ezra 7:10.” When I turn to Ezra 7:10, I have my note on that page: “Ezra’s Pattern: 1. Study 2. Do it 3. Teach.” Works for me. Hope this helps.

  34. I have a question: I was offered a book the cover binding of which was announced to be “cabra leather” by the publishers. Does this mean the cover binding is in “real” leather, or is Cabra a leather substitute?

  35. I thought about how to use the “Index to Notes” for quite some time. I’ve concluded that because the wide-margin is designed for note taking, the index serves to help one organize one’s notes. For example, if I make a note about the doctrine of election in Romans 9, I’ll write “Election” under the alphabetical section beginning with E and then I’ll write the scripture reference to which the note is assigned. This way, if I ever need to find my note on election again, I simply go to my index to see where all of my notes on the subject are located.
    Additionally, I will also use the index section to list all of the scriptures on a various topic, such as election, salvation, etc.

  36. “Above: Inside the cover, some shiny, leather-like substance. I agree with the folks who wish it were all leather, but I have to say, as it is, I’m perfectly satisfied.”
    Ok let me inform you, that it is Real Goatskin. They use a certain oil on the leather, than they do what is called a “ironed Leather” Process than coat it with A High Gloss solution for protection. So it IS 100% Leather Lining.

  37. Okay, I just found a boo-boo in my Cambridge Wide-Margin ESV which means it is in the Pitt Minion version as well. Check out Job 7:1. Just goes to show us that in our day with modern technology we can make errors just as the early scribes did.

  38. Added note: We probably make more errors than the early copiers because we rely on spell and grammar check instead of having multiple people read the text vigorously and double check each page.

  39. one question – I’ve scoured the internet looking for a brown, wide margin, goatskin bible. Does such a thing exist? I want the cambridge wm here in brown, or the allan here with writable margins. Seems like every new addition skips this specific combination of features. ‘Just don’t want to break down and get this black goatskin wm, and find the brown allan wm is coming out next week! :)

  40. Mike. The new Allans ESV readers version might fit the bill for you, it comes in chocolate goatskin and is said to have at least 1″ margins, available November I think…I’ve ordered one already.
    BTW just checked in my ESV pitt minion and yes the typo in Job 7:1 is there (of course) it looks like it should be a superscript relating to a side note, just shows you that nothing is perfect in life.

  41. Speaking of nothing being perfect… British folks might like to know that Cambridge are having a sale at their shop (in Cambridge) from about the middle of November up to Christmas selling bibles that have been classed as seconds at reduced prices. You never know there might be a bargain to be had there. God bless

  42. Too much money. Bad stewardship. Just buy a cheap Bible. You aren’t buying the book for the cover anyway, I would hope. You are buying it for what’s in, between the book cover.

  43. Ah, James, don’t you see a Mary/Martha thing going on here? These folks are just sitting at Jesus’ feet, listening to his words, instead of doing the “right/responsible thing”. Where a man’s treasure is, there shall his heart be also. Buying an expensive Bible is just putting your money where your heart is.

  44. I think its quite funny that people think buying a quality bible is bad stewardship. I suppose they must be the sort who buy the cheapest clothes, cars, TV’s, houses, computers, MP3 players, food, and so on and so forth?

  45. Speaking of typo’s; I noticed the absence of a full-stop in Hebrews 4:13 after the word “sight” in my Cambridge NIV Wide-Margin (US Version)

  46. Gary Brown: Thanks for the info about the Cambridge sale. I assume you are talking about the Cambridge store right in the downtown area. While I’m from the US, I was there at the store in March and plan to be in the UK for the holidays. I may have to check that out. There are also a few used bookstores in the area that are quite nice.

  47. It may be noted elsewhere on this blog, but the Tru Tone Wide Margin Reference Bible LACKS a wide inside (gutter) margin. There is only a wide outer margin for note taking. A big disappointment.

  48. I bought the hardcover, has anyone found a protective case for it?

  49. Is there a Cambridge Goatskin red-letter wide-margin KJV anywhere? Is there anything close to it?

  50. @Todd F. —
    I have the Crossway WM you’re talking about, and like you said there’s no inside margin to speak of. The paper is also pretty terrible; even the much-praised Pigma Micron pens bleed through pretty badly, and I write very small and light.
    That said, I got mine for $25 on sale at LifeWay, just to see if I’d use the wide-margin feature enough to justify buying the Cambridge. I have to say that I’ve come to love having that big ol’ blank space for teaching notes, references, etc. I think there’ll be some black goatskin on my Christmas list this year …

  51. Two weeks ago, I ordered the Cambridge WM (hardbound)from Westminster Seminary Bookstore (WTSBooks.com). Excellent service and delivery. I genuinely enjoy the Bible, the paper appears to be thin but there is no bleed-through with the Sigma pens. Ghosting is not objectionable either. Although it is not genuine leather, the book has a nice feel to the hand and opens nice and flat for notes etc. I believe this will last for many years.

  52. My ESV Cambridge WM in Goatskin Leather arrived today, and I am absolutely pleased. The smell alone gives me joy. I have no objections whatsoever; it is pure quality. This is the best Bible I’ve ever owned and the Bible of a lifetime. I am blessed.
    Now is the time to buy too, because just two weeks ago it dropped from $160 to $140, so get it now! I got mine from EvangelicalBible.com and their service and shipping was excellent.

  53. I see that Dr.(?) Bertrand is understandably being very selective about the kinds of e-mail notes/queries he responds to, so I’m wondering if someone out there can help me.
    I’ve scanned through the above review and blog of wide-margin ESVs, but didn’t notice my questions being addressed by anyone. I’ve also checked out the Allan portfolio of Bibles on Bibles Direct UK, and have written them (Allan Bibles) a note of inquiry.
    I’d like a ESV (or NLT) wide-margin Bible on cream-colored India paper, font size 8, 9, or 10, with a comprehensive concordance, and faint lines in the wide margins for notes, bound in a supple Buffalo or Goat skin in a dark, rich espresso/cigar brown — oh, and in a single-column format. It doesn’t look like Allan publishes any of there own wide-margin Bibles. Cambridge does, of course, but is the paper referred to above in Bertrand’s review actually India paper? I don’t see anything specific reference to the paper being India. Also, does anyone know if any plans (by Cambridge or Allan) to produce a wide-margin NLT?
    Thanks in advance for your help.

  54. Jeff go to Allan’s web site (use google) and look into the blog on the site. Allan’s commits on the use of true india paper and the lack of bcause of printing and oroducing cost.

  55. Jeff sorry about the spelling erors. should read producting cost.

  56. I just ordered the black goatskin version of the ESV wide margin…..I didn’t anticipate this, but I might like it as much or better than the Allan’s Readers Edition….The goatskin leather is perfect and the rougher grain is very nice. Mark was right about the bible seeming liquid in your hands…very “bendy” which is nice on a bible this wide.
    It’s also lighter than I anticipated….the only thing I would change would be the ribbons. Two or three thicker red or blue ribbons would have been better for a bible of this price range and quality. As it is though I’m very happy with it.

  57. Sorry, the above post from me was supposed to say “ordered last week and received yesterday”
    Another thing about this bible: The red-under-gold on this is a much deeper red than what you see on the pitt minion….that was a nice surprise and really makes the bible look better.

  58. I just got the ESV wide margin. I really like it as well, except mine had some defective pages, so I have to send it to Cambridge for a replacement. The goatskin is very supple and I’m amazed by the paper. I love the font as well. I can’t wait to get my replacement and start writing in it.

  59. Thank you for helping me find this Bible! A short story:
    Cambridge used to make wide margin Bibles back in the 80s and 90s and then they stopped. My brother got a beautiful leather bound Cambridge wide-margin RSV Bible back in the early 90s for $30 on a clearance rack. It was the year after Cambridge stopped making them.
    I’ve tried for over a decade to track down a used one at a reasonable price (just about impossible). I had given up on finding a quality wide-margin that would be my primary Bible for years.
    I just happened to stumble across your blog post during a search for an ESV study Bible. My jaw hit the floor. Here is the Bible I’ve been waiting 10+ years for, back in print.
    Mine arrived this week and I just wanted to say thank you.

  60. For anybody wondering, it took about 2 weeks to get my replacement ESV wide-margin. They had to send me a call-tag, I had to send the bible in, and they had to send a replacement.

  61. I recently tried the ESV wide margin from Cambridge, in black Goatskin. After trying Allan’s Readers Reference and being disappointed with the amount of ghosting, I was really wanting to like the Cambridge. As I have stated in my comments on the Allan Bible, the paper used by Cambridge is far superior with regards to ghosting. Unfortunately I found the print too small for me to use as my daily reader.
    If the print was larger I suspect I would have kept it. That said, the Bible’s from Allan are superior in all the areas under their control; I much preferred the Highland Goatskin that Allan uses and the red under gold on the page edges. Also, many have complaint about the cheesy ribbon markers used by Cambridge in the black letter edition, a complaint I thought to be trivial, well they have merit. Not only are they thin and wimpy, they are also cheap and poorly made. I also had an issue where the cover wasn’t glued down in a couple places after the stitching. This caused the inner stiff flap to catch and bend it back in that location, not something really acceptable for a Bible at this price and quality expectation.
    I am a bit disappointed I haven’t found a high quality ESV that works for me with the 2007 changes; as it stands I will continue with my older versions and hope for something better, a theme I am all too familiar with, not just with the ESV.

  62. I have received my ESV Cambridge wide margin : it is perfect ! It is unlike any bible I already posess. The Goatskin is awsome, the binding is near perfection. The ESV traslation is great and acurate, the typo is excellent and very readble. I use Pigma micon pens to write : OO5 to write comments in the margin, O2 to undferline and 03 to write comments at the end section. It is the perfect tool combo to teach and preach. Thank you for the review that pushed me to purchase this wonderful Bible !

  63. Anyone know when Cambridge changed the margins in their wide margin Bibles? I have an NIV from the 90’s and the margins were basically equal all around. I saw a recent Cambridge wide margin Bible & the inner margins are much smaller. I hope they return to the earlier style soon.

  64. Question: What are the actual margin measurements for the ESV Cambridge wide margin Bible? I thought I saw that the outer margins were 1.25″ but did not see the top, bottom, or inside margin measurements.

  65. Does this bible use the 2011 ESV text? I’m planning to by this and maybe the Pitt Minion or Schuyler Bible. I like how I could go between both the feature shared between the P-Minion and the W-Margin Cambridge Bibles. However, I plan to use the W-Margin for Bible study and probably the Schuyler for sermons, lessons, daily reading, etc.

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